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What mods can be applied to stock T420?

T400/410/420 and T500/510/520 series specific matters only
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Carbon_Dater
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What mods can be applied to stock T420?

#1 Post by Carbon_Dater » Mon Nov 12, 2018 9:07 pm

Hi,

I'm currently using my sister's T420, which got her through medical school, and she is a doctor now.

She is being tempted by Dell and Apple to 'upgrade' to the XPS 13 or Macbook Pro.

However, all of her stuff (and I mean a LOT of stuff - medical videos, journals, logins, hospital portals, etc...) is on the T420. I would like to clone this HDD into an SSD, which would keep all the data and be much faster.

Okay, here's the specs:

Seagate 500 GB HDD 7200 RPM

4 GB DDR3 RAM

Intel Core i5-2430M CPU @2.0 Ghz

2 cores, 4 threads

1377x768 Display


One of the reasons she wants to get a new laptop is that this one is getting really sluggish lately. (She doesn't know why - the HDD has only 6 GB free, lol!)

In the short term, after clearing up some HDD space, I know we can update the RAM. Stick another 4 GB of DDR3 in there so that she can have 8 GB in total. (I mean, there's more than 1 RAM slot in there, right?)

I can also clone the HDD to an SSD, right? That would be MUCH faster.

Processor upgrades are a possibility, but I don't think it's the processor that's holding us back.

The other thing that she is upset about is the display, which is a sucky 1377x768. But I understand that upgrade kits are available?

I also think we should replace her very dirty keyboard.

Are reliable batteries available?

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Re: What mods can be applied to stock T420?

#2 Post by Thinkpad4by3 » Mon Nov 12, 2018 9:35 pm

Carbon_Dater wrote:
Mon Nov 12, 2018 9:07 pm
Seagate 500 GB HDD 7200 RPM

4 GB DDR3 RAM

Intel Core i5-2430M CPU @2.0 Ghz

2 cores, 4 threads

1377x768 Display
Basically can upgrade everything here. FYI: Its 1366, not 1377
Carbon_Dater wrote:
Mon Nov 12, 2018 9:07 pm
One of the reasons she wants to get a new laptop is that this one is getting really sluggish lately. (She doesn't know why - the HDD has only 6 GB free, lol!)

In the short term, after clearing up some HDD space, I know we can update the RAM. Stick another 4 GB of DDR3 in there so that she can have 8 GB in total. (I mean, there's more than 1 RAM slot in there, right?)

I can also clone the HDD to an SSD, right? That would be MUCH faster.
Wouldn't recommend a clone, especially to a bigger drive. It will be better on a fresh install but you theoretically could. Expanding the drive volume might be a pain though. Windows runs very sluggish without around 25% of the drive capacity free...so do note that.

Depending on the config...yes. If it is a 2x2GB set then no. A 2x4GB SODIMM DDR3 set is dirt cheap nowadays. Heck...16GB can sometimes be found for I think 100$ if you look around.
Carbon_Dater wrote:
Mon Nov 12, 2018 9:07 pm
Processor upgrades are a possibility, but I don't think it's the processor that's holding us back.
Processor shouldn't be holding you back too much. My T520 with the same processor just flies with a fresh copy of W7 and a 120GB SSD WITH FREE SPACE.

Though..if you absolutely need more power a quad-core i7 will work in that machine, at the expense of high thermals and poor battery life.
Carbon_Dater wrote:
Mon Nov 12, 2018 9:07 pm
The other thing that she is upset about is the display, which is a sucky 1377x768. But I understand that upgrade kits are available?
For a direct fit(AKA no modding) the top screen would be a 1600x900 panels. I believe the ones out of old Alienwares were supposed to be much better than the Lenovo 900p panels. Others can confirm this for me.

If you are willing to mod, RMSMajestic and another user EvanJoo make kits for a 1080p or I think WQHD kit. Those are also IPS not TN like above.
Carbon_Dater wrote:
Mon Nov 12, 2018 9:07 pm
I also think we should replace her very dirty keyboard.
A screwdriver and an eBay account can fix this with 30$, and a few minutes to spare. Others can recommend the NMB ones which are the best. Not sure the part number though. Any keyboard should be fine though.
Carbon_Dater wrote:
Mon Nov 12, 2018 9:07 pm
Are reliable batteries available?
Put a post up in the marketplace...we should have some laying around that would fit the bill for you. eBay should have plenty too. If they are OEM and NOS....they will be fine.
Thinkpad4by3's Law of the Universe.

The efficiency of two screens equally sized with equal numbers if pixels are equal. The time spent by a 4:3 user complaining about 16:9 is proportional to the inefficiency working with a 16:9 display, therefore the amount of useful work extracted is equal.

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Re: What mods can be applied to stock T420?

#3 Post by GrifterGuru » Tue Nov 13, 2018 12:52 am

Mods for a stock T420?

Simple:

1) mSata in place of the WWAN board (underneath the unit, next to one of the RAM slots)
2) Ultrabay HDD Caddy and a decent SSD OR Ultrabay battery OR update / upgrade the optical drive
3) 16GB Ram (I am currently running 16GB [2x8GB] 1333Mhz, but upping that to either 1866 or 2133 soon as I have a non-whitelist BIOS)
4) I am running an i7 Quad CPU (Will update spec shortly)
5) Flash the bios to remove the whitelist for the WiFi card, then you can install a better one.
6) 9 Cell Battery
7) 90w PSU

The second RAM slot is located underneath the keyboard. Ideal time to upgrade RAM is whilst you replace the keyboard.

If the machine is used on a desk, I would recommend a 4337 (locking) docking station for the extra ports and the ability to connect external keyboard, mouse and monitor as well as a wired ethernet connection, without having to disconnect them all when the laptop "goes mobile".

There is a FHD screen mod option, check the thread on this forum.

With a second SSD in an ultrabay HDD caddy (where the optical/dvd drive is located) or mSata (replacing the WWAN board), you could install MacOS alongside windows and dual boot. Add a third hard drive for storage, or even run a *nix O/S for triple boot.
X31 2672-58G, M73 10AXS, M73 10AXS i7, L412 4403-72G i5,T420 4236-9N8 i7-2630QM, T430 2349-TDG, X201 3680-C85, X220 42902
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Re: What mods can be applied to stock T420?

#4 Post by dr_st » Tue Nov 13, 2018 2:59 am

GrifterGuru wrote:
Tue Nov 13, 2018 12:52 am
2) Ultrabay HDD Caddy and a decent SSD OR Ultrabay battery OR update / upgrade the optical drive
Unfortunately, T410/20/30 do not support Ultrabay battery (only the -s models do). That's not too bad, as they have the large 94Wh 9-cell battery option.
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Re: What mods can be applied to stock T420?

#5 Post by GrifterGuru » Tue Nov 13, 2018 6:20 am

Good point, I was thinking of the slice battery.....
X31 2672-58G, M73 10AXS, M73 10AXS i7, L412 4403-72G i5,T420 4236-9N8 i7-2630QM, T430 2349-TDG, X201 3680-C85, X220 42902
Install Mojave on X220 & T420

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Re: What mods can be applied to stock T420?

#6 Post by RealBlackStuff » Tue Nov 13, 2018 6:37 am

I would suggest this:
- get a portable external USB3.0 500GB-1TB HDD, not SSD
- COPY (and organize if needed) just the medical stuff onto that portable HDD, forget about copying Windows stuff.

Rather than mod/upgrade and spend all that time and money on the T420, clean it up (new/used KB) and sell it.
Instead get a T440p with native FHD IPS (1920x1080) and replace its clunkpad with the T450 touchpad+buttons.
Get an M.2 2242 SSD for in the WWAN-slot and install W7/W8.1 or Linux on that.
You can reuse the HDD from the T420 (after wiping it) for storage in the regular drive bay.
If you need more stotrage, replace the DVD-drive with an Ultrabay adapter with HDD/SSD.
T440p can also have 2x8GB RAM.
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Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: What mods can be applied to stock T420?

#7 Post by Carbon_Dater » Wed Nov 14, 2018 3:07 pm

Thanks for these details. This is all incredibly helpful.

Based on your advice, I've decided to restore and refurbish this T420 as best as possible.

My sister isn't keen on ordering too many parts, but I will stealthily buy some.

Is there a place in Sydney, Australia that can operate on this? Some of these mods are drop-in, but the screen one concerns me. I'd like to take it into a pro, and do it all at once, especially if I am doing a HiDPI screen mod.

Also, is there a good place from which to order these parts in Australia?


I'm not going to spend a ton of money here. The RAM won't be that expensive, I'll clear out HDD space, maybe put in the 1600p screen (although I am partial to the 1080 or 1440p mod!), and a new battery if she plans to move it around. The processor is plenty powerful already for what she is doing.

It will serve as a home laptop while she shops for, purchases, and moves all her stuff onto an ultraportable. Then, later, she can put an SSD in the T420 and run Windows 10 or linux and it will really fly.

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Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: What mods can be applied to stock T420?

#8 Post by Carbon_Dater » Wed Nov 14, 2018 3:24 pm

Here are the parts I think I should buy (sans model numbers):

-4-12 GB of additional RAM, either a 4 GB stick for the second RAM slot, or replace it all with 2x 8GB

-1600x900 stock Lenovo screen, or one of the 1080p+ mods.

-new keyboard, because they're probably not that expensive and it needs to be removed anyway.

Once I clear out 20-25% of the hard drive, and do those mods, it will be significantly better than new.

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Re: What mods can be applied to stock T420?

#9 Post by Thinkpad4by3 » Wed Nov 14, 2018 3:48 pm

Carbon_Dater wrote:
Wed Nov 14, 2018 3:24 pm
Once I clear out 20-25% of the hard drive, and do those mods, it will be significantly better than new.
Hardware wise..

That is also dependent on how roughly your sister treats her machines. :)
Thinkpad4by3's Law of the Universe.

The efficiency of two screens equally sized with equal numbers if pixels are equal. The time spent by a 4:3 user complaining about 16:9 is proportional to the inefficiency working with a 16:9 display, therefore the amount of useful work extracted is equal.

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Re: What mods can be applied to stock T420?

#10 Post by Carbon_Dater » Wed Nov 14, 2018 4:11 pm

:D Yeah, she's pretty bad. Her machine is an absolute disaster, dirt-wise.

My X1 Carbon (2013) is right next to hers right now, and it looks pristine by comparison.

I'm going to take a photo of it and show it to you guys later. It looks like it came out of a dumpster.

But mechanically, it functions okay except for the slowdowns caused by 95% full HDD and 4 GB of RAM in 2018.

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Re: What mods can be applied to stock T420?

#11 Post by GrifterGuru » Wed Nov 14, 2018 8:07 pm

If she uses/used the machine at any medical centre/hospital, it will need disinfecting and a serious deep clean of the hardware.

Hospitals/surgeries/medical centres are the filthiest, dirtiest places you will ever find yourself, not that you will see it as the "filth" is the unseen germ and bacteria content.

Just make-sure to wash and disinfect your hands after handling it and before handling anything else.

No offense intended here, but having worked in a hospital, I am more aware than most of Germs and bacteria and the need to keep them at bay through disinfecting everything.
X31 2672-58G, M73 10AXS, M73 10AXS i7, L412 4403-72G i5,T420 4236-9N8 i7-2630QM, T430 2349-TDG, X201 3680-C85, X220 42902
Install Mojave on X220 & T420

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Re: What mods can be applied to stock T420?

#12 Post by MikalE » Thu Nov 15, 2018 11:26 am

You can also upgrade the Bluetooth to 4.0 and add a security card reader for stand-alone card access. This is especially inportant if she is using the machine in a public place and leaves the machine unattended. Removal of the card will lock the computer in the current state is was in when the card was removed. If a FPR is already installed , this adds a third measure of security after the password log-on and FPR.

You will have to check the hardware manual to see if a card reader was an option on this machine. I donÄt think the case size is quite the same as the T520, but it may still be configured the same internally under the palm rest. There is some slight cutting away of supporting ribs on the underside of the palm rest required where the card reader is installed, but the card reader supplies the required support under the palm rest so there is no flexing at all once installed and re-assembled.

I'm really surprised more Thinkpads were not equipped with this feature from the factory. Of course, back then, there may not have been stand-alone security card software to implement this on a personal use level. It was originally designed for secure network access and the cards were issued by your employer's IT department and the security tokens and vault were configured by them as well. All that has changed and there is now software to use the security card reader as a stand-alone security measure.
T500 T9600 2055-BE9
T510 i5 4384-DV7
T510 i7 4349-A64
T520 i7 4242-4UU(CTO)


T520: i7-2760QM(2.40GHz),16GB, 500GB SSD/500GB 7200 Drive, 1600x900, 1GB NVIDIA, DVDRW, Smartcard, media card, FPR, Win7 Pro64, whitelist BIOS, N 6300 AGN, German KB, BT 4.0.

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Re: What mods can be applied to stock T420?

#13 Post by Thinkpad4by3 » Thu Nov 15, 2018 12:26 pm

MikalE wrote:
Thu Nov 15, 2018 11:26 am
You will have to check the hardware manual to see if a card reader was an option on this machine. I donÄt think the case size is quite the same as the T520, but it may still be configured the same internally under the palm rest. There is some slight cutting away of supporting ribs on the underside of the palm rest required where the card reader is installed, but the card reader supplies the required support under the palm rest so there is no flexing at all once installed and re-assembled.

I'm really surprised more Thinkpads were not equipped with this feature from the factory. Of course, back then, there may not have been stand-alone security card software to implement this on a personal use level. It was originally designed for secure network access and the cards were issued by your employer's IT department and the security tokens and vault were configured by them as well. All that has changed and there is now software to use the security card reader as a stand-alone security measure.
Who used the card readers anyway? Could you use them as chip credit card payment devices?
Thinkpad4by3's Law of the Universe.

The efficiency of two screens equally sized with equal numbers if pixels are equal. The time spent by a 4:3 user complaining about 16:9 is proportional to the inefficiency working with a 16:9 display, therefore the amount of useful work extracted is equal.

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Re: What mods can be applied to stock T420?

#14 Post by MikalE » Thu Nov 15, 2018 12:46 pm

I think I explained that in the above post. But, I use it as a third level of security.
T500 T9600 2055-BE9
T510 i5 4384-DV7
T510 i7 4349-A64
T520 i7 4242-4UU(CTO)


T520: i7-2760QM(2.40GHz),16GB, 500GB SSD/500GB 7200 Drive, 1600x900, 1GB NVIDIA, DVDRW, Smartcard, media card, FPR, Win7 Pro64, whitelist BIOS, N 6300 AGN, German KB, BT 4.0.

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Re: What mods can be applied to stock T420?

#15 Post by Thinkpad4by3 » Thu Nov 15, 2018 1:51 pm

MikalE wrote:
Thu Nov 15, 2018 12:46 pm
I think I explained that in the above post. But, I use it as a third level of security.
I know that...but like what cards did they use and how was it integrated with Windows? As a login method?
Thinkpad4by3's Law of the Universe.

The efficiency of two screens equally sized with equal numbers if pixels are equal. The time spent by a 4:3 user complaining about 16:9 is proportional to the inefficiency working with a 16:9 display, therefore the amount of useful work extracted is equal.

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Re: What mods can be applied to stock T420?

#16 Post by MikalE » Thu Nov 15, 2018 3:26 pm

I'm not certain how it was used with a network log-on. For a stand alone system it is just another secure method of Windows log-on.

I use this software: EIDAuthenticate https://www.mysmartlogon.com/download/#EIDAuthenticate

The card I use is a PIVKey C910 by Taglio. The user PIN and Admin key can both be set and new certificates mapped to the PIV using EIDAuthenticate or the PIVKey Admin Tool.
T500 T9600 2055-BE9
T510 i5 4384-DV7
T510 i7 4349-A64
T520 i7 4242-4UU(CTO)


T520: i7-2760QM(2.40GHz),16GB, 500GB SSD/500GB 7200 Drive, 1600x900, 1GB NVIDIA, DVDRW, Smartcard, media card, FPR, Win7 Pro64, whitelist BIOS, N 6300 AGN, German KB, BT 4.0.

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